As the covid19 virus continues to spread through the world and our country, governments and health authorities have recognised the importance of social distancing, and restricting large gatherings. Companies, specifically local corporations, that have operated until very recently in a traditional office working model are now faced with an extreme challenge; implementing remote working systems that work for them, while working remotely. The challenge this poses is immeasurably enormous because the barriers to adopting such a model of operation lie multiple domains including; the organization's culture, its leadership’s mentality, its employees’ understanding in what is expected of them and the tools the organisation uses to establish, communicate, track and pursue its objectives.
While most office work is now done on laptops and many organisations and their personnel use email and chat applications to coordinate their work internally, correspond with suppliers and even service their clients, most staff members and their managers are reliant on an office setting and the benefits having everyone present in a single location provides. This reliance is infact a crutch that prevents many organisations from improving their processors, streamlining their operations and taking full advantage of the benefits of the technology it possesses.
In order to implement a successful remote working culture, companies need to ensure both their leaders and their employees understand the best practices for working remotely.
Managing a remote working team poses many challenges but utilizing best practices it is possible to achieve very high levels of efficiency (P2)
Leading Remote Teams
Facilitating the conversations needed
Continuous communication is essential to managing the workflow of a distributed team. Ensuring that all team members have a clear understanding of not just their daily tasks but how their tasks fit together to achieve the goals of the team and the organisation is essential to the success of a remotely managed team. To do this there are multiple project management and communication tools we will discuss in another article.
Unlike in an office setting where issues with team members can more clearly be observed, in a remote team such issues can remain invisible till delays are observed in your team’s work pipeline, leading to in a worst case scenario; a halt in everyone’s work. To avoid this, it is essential to open channels of feedback and provide everyone an opportunity to voice their issues so that problems are resolved at the earliest.
Learning from successful agile teams, daily stand ups and weekly reviews are essential for remote working teams and video conferencing apps such as Google Hangouts, or Zoom can provide team video conferencing to get everyone up to speed daily.
To conduct a daily standup and quickly get your entire team up to speed each team member needs to answer the following 3 questions; What have I completed since the last meeting? What do I plan to complete by the next meeting? And what is getting in my way? Answers are kept short and discussions on particular points between certain team members occur after the meeting is completed. To find out more on how to conduct daily stand ups and weekly reviews click here to check out our previous article on Agile tips for Better communication.
Breaking Down Large tasks
Having large tasks with longer deadlines creates huge blindspots in the progress of your team's workload. With remote working teams the control given up in the overlooking of the workflow process by not having your team in front of you needs to be addressed. This can be done through breaking down large tasks into bite sized goals of which each can be assigned to a team member and tracked, the benefits of which is multifold;
1 - You have a very clear understanding of what needs to happen to get the output you desire.
2 - It is easy for team members to understand what they need to do
3 - You have a high resolution into the progress of the overall task
4 - Bottlenecks and constraints to the process can be identified and worked on easily
5 - Multiple people can work together on a large task easily with minimal overlap through individually working on smaller pieces of the larger task
6 - Motivation of each team member can be maintained with a high level of productivity through the completion of several smaller, well defined tasks
Keeping Focus on Outcomes
Managing a remote team can prove significantly harder than an onsite one. The lack of physical presence means that there is a disconnect between them and your company and its values. Also there is less of a window of contact making it difficult to develop a rapport and trust to ensure that your team member's dedication and motivation is maintained. While adhering to the above and providing clear tasks as well as facilitating quality communication between members of the team, it is important for each individual member to have a sense of trust in their team as well as a clear understanding of their role and the tasks expected of them. Providing team members with daily dashboards of the tasks they have at hand and indicating to team members the ones they have completed can ensure a high level of participation and motivation.
Additionally it is important to support team members who may not be used to working from home with guidelines to support them through their transition to ensure the success of the whole team. We look at such guidelines below.
Working at home can be especially difficult for employees used to going to an office, our environment frames our mindset so it's unlikely you’ll be able to get any work done lying on your bed (P3)
Guidelines to Maintaining Productivity at Home
Being productive at home can be a significant challenge. Besides the myriad of distractions that surround you, not used to having to work from home, getting into the mindset of “getting sh*t done” can be a challenge. The distance from your bed to your desk can be a few meters but the gap in your mind can seem unbridgeable. However the benefit to being able to shift your mindset successfully and manage your distractions at home mean is an essential skill today. Check out the below tips to make sure you are able to stay focused at home.
Maintain your Morning Routine
Having a schedule not only provides structure to the day, it also helps you stay motivated. Start the day by getting up early and keeping a similar routine to what you would normally do if you were to go to office, even dressing up while it may seem “over the top '' or unnecessary does change your mood and attitude to getting things done.
Make a Todo-List the Day Before and Dive into Work Early
It is important that you dive into your work todo list as early as possible. Doing a todo list the day before is key to this and as it avoids having to spend time in the morning thinking about what you need to get done, which wastes time and time and burns you out before starting on actually doing what needs to be done. If you are working as part of a team it is essential that the team leader understands what needs to be done and is able to assign tasks accordingly. It is also important to keep in mind that the tone in which you start with determines the pace you will be able to keep when working at home. It will be tempting to have an extended breakfast, and enjoy your “work from home”, but that usually tends to fail. It is best to get a few tasks out of the way before taking a break.
Set Boundaries and Take Breaks
It is important to manage the pace of your working from home. As there is no physical boundary to indicate when you are at work, you need to make sure not just that you are productive but also that you do not burn out. Working from home should not be synonymous with working all the time. Make sure to set up boundaries, that is while working avoid family or other distractions usually present at home, and while not working make sure to disconnect yourself mentally from your work or risk burning out. This can be done through working for a set number of hours as if you were in the office, and through giving yourself regular breaks throughout the day. During these breaks it is recommended that you give yourself access to one distraction instead of allowing yourself to enjoy the host of options in distraction usually available to us. This will keep you on track and prevent you from procrastinating.
Working in isolation builds strain and can lead to burn out in motivation after sometime. Make sure to stay in touch and include conversations, even online, into your day. Staying in touch and communicating with team members and other friends on topics besides work can help significantly with this.
Enabling employees to work from home and managing their workflow remotely will be a significant challenge for corporates. But the prevailing situation in the country is a clear example of why both public and private sector institutions need to improve their knowledge on remote working best practices and facilitate the implementation of such practices through the adoption of suitable tools to allow their employees the option and flexibility of remote work without feeling it a compromise to the overall efficiency and output of the company.